Rabbi's Blog

The Rabbi's thoughts culled from the "word from the Rabbi" in his weekly email

What do you see?

Girl or Lady?Remember this picture? Do you see the beautiful woman or the old lady? Through which lens do you see the world?

Here is Torah version of this (perhaps).

When you you think of Mt. Sinai, do you think of the Ten Commandments or do you think of the Revelation of G-d, thunder, lightning and booming Divine voice?

Is your experience of the Torah, a stringent set of rules that must be obeyed, or are you engaged in a loving relationship with G-d and the Torah is the framework for that relationship?

We may perceive the Ten Commandments as relationship tools but many other Mitzvos as rules. For example, In this week’s portion of Mishpatim, the Torah shifts from the narrative as it has since the beginning of the Torah in Bereishis, and focuses on a significant number of tort laws. It’s hard to experience these laws as anything but a series of rules that must be obeyed.
Yes, the Torah opens this week’s Torah portion with letter Vov = And; “and these are the laws you should place before them”. And is a connecting word, connecting last Torah portion, the revelation at Sinai, with this weeks Tort Laws. That is to say, “just as those (the Ten Commandments) are from Sinai so to these are”.

If the Ten Commandments are about Revelation and Relationship, then the Tort Laws are about Revelation and Relationship. If the Ten Commandments are about laws and obedience then so is Tort Law. How do you experience it?

Have a great Shabbos!

The Jewish Woman


Moses speaks first to the women and then to the men. He affirms a truth evident today more than ever; the Jewish woman is the mainstay of the home.

He speaks in terms of conversation, engagement with the women. With the men he speaks in terms of instruction, command.

It's quite obvious without our women, men would not be here. But, in truth if not for our women we would not only not physically be here but man would have long ago consumed each other.

King Solomon in his famous Aishes Chayil offers the praises of the woman. In it he recognizes the many facets of life, from the most basic needs of life to the most sophisticated all anchored and provided for by the woman, the mainstay of the home. Hipster'ized version at the end of the article.

I share this because the source for Moses speaking first to the women and then the men is from this week's Torah portion.

Additionally, this weekend is the annual conference of the Shluchos, Chabad Rebitzen emissaries in NY. The Rebbe highlighted this truth of the Torah and changed the role of Jewish women in the Chabad community and by extension in the Jewish world.

Sidebar: That means I will be alone this weekend, so there will not be services at Chabad, you are welcome to visit the house. The "foundation of the home" the Ikeret Habayit, Fraida is out of town.

This Shabbos blesses the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe's wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah. The Rebbetzin made the sacrifice of agreeing to give her husband to the Chasidim, to the Jewish People. She exemplified the very meaning of living a life of sacrifice.

Read more about The Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah here.

Read articles about the Jewish Women here, I find articles here as well :).

With blessings for a great Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. Hipster Version of Aishes Chayil click here

What is Love?


What is Love?

Is love a feeling?

If I say I love you, but do not show it in how I behave, is it still love?

If I act like and show you that I love you, but do not say it, is it not love?

The deepest expressions of self are most revealed in the mundane actions. True love is expressed when doing a service for another, to fulfill their needs and wants. For example, when I take out the garbage, shovel the walkway, do the dishes or deal with a dirty diaper, none of which are my preferred way of spending time, yet I am happy to do it for my loved ones.

I think this is the message the Rebbe gave in his inaugural address, 68 years ago. The practical action of a Mitzvah, with and within the mundane world, is where G-d’s essence is revealed.  Being that the love of G-d, love of the Torah and love of the Jewish People are inseparable, when a Jew does a Mitzvah, which is written in the Torah, this expresses his love for G-d. The Mitzvahs are G-d’s needs and wants, by fulfilling them to make Him happy, this is the highest form of connection.

Have a lovely Shabbos!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

My teacher, the son of a terrorist!

Zak Ebrahim tells a story about his father El-Sayyid Nosair:

On November 5th, 1990, a man named El-Sayyid Nosair walked into a hotel in Manhattan and assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Defense League. Nosair was initially found not guilty of the murder, but while serving time on lesser charges, he and other men began planning attacks on a dozen New York City landmarks, including tunnels, synagogues and the United Nations headquarters.

If you knew nothing more other than the above statement, you may conclude that Zak Ebrahim is a bad person. After all, he is a son of a terrorist and a murderer!

Many times we tell ourselves that we are the result of our circumstances. “I am a product of my upbringing and there is nothing I can do to change that”.

Zak Ebrahim continues his story: "Thankfully, those plans were foiled by an FBI informant. Sadly, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was not. Nosair would eventually be convicted for his involvement in the plot. El-Sayyid Nosair is my father."

You see, Zak broke from his self-perception; one that he was indoctrinated in, one that said I am great and others who are not like me are vermin.

Zak also realized that while he cannot change his father, he is his own person! Zak’s freedom comes from realizing that we can change how we view ourselves. We can see ourselves as a soul and a body and recognize that our mission is to make the world a better place!

By changing our view of ourselves as stuck in a place based on our past to one that is empowered to change our future, we leave Egypt. We free ourselves from the shackles of anger, hate, and depression.

By changing our view of ourselves we are liberated from the negative energy also known as our personal Egypt.

Have a liberating Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterm

I almost dropped observant Judaism

Family. There are so many things that we pick up from our families. Some more positive than others. However, there is always an impact from our family; whether from nature or from nurture. 

One of the Jewish values is faith in G-d; that G-d exists and that we believe in Him. However, when the going gets tough, when going through challenging times, it is sometimes hard to understand “where is G-d?” How can He allow this to happen? In the words of Moses: "Why have you wronged these people?"

And to that G-d answers: I showed myself! 

When I was approx. 16 years old, I was not sure if I believed in G-d. I had worked out a plan to drop out of "observant Judaism". 

At that time, I went to an older student in the Yeshiva and asked him what he thought of my plan, expecting some pushback. Alas, he said: "that is the best thing I have ever heard".

I was shocked. He explained to me: now you can move from a childish relationship with G-d, because "it is in the family", to a real, deep and meaningful relationship with Him.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Vaeira, G-d is telling Moses: start to see Me and build a relationship with Me that is beyond faith. A relationship where you "see" G-d in the world around you and not an inherited relationship because it is the family tradition.  "Seeing is believing!" Then, when events that we define as negative happen, we can turn to G-d and say, although I cannot understand it intellectually, I see you exist, and I KNOW this is good because YOU are good! 

Have a revealed good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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